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The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff
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685813,926 (4.01)36
Title:The Silver Branch
Authors:Rosemary Sutcliff
Other authors:Julia Eccleshare (Introduction)
Info:The Folio Society Ltd, 44 Eagle Street, London
Collections:Your library, Folio Society
Tags:Fiction, Roman army, Roman Britain

Work details

The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff (1957)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Well, the annoying thing about this book was the spoilers contained in the blurb, two on the back cover and another one on the page inside the front cover, giving away two major turning points in the book and effectively telling us something that doesn't happen until the last act, though it is the point the book has been building up to. It doesn't spoil the book by any means but it does nail down the direction of the book for you before you've even picked it up. The first spoiled turning point doesn't occur until about 100 pages in, for God's sake.

Anyway, The Silver branch, sequel to Eagle Of The Ninth, set a generation later, recounts the adventures of Justin and Flavius, young Roman officers posted to Britain where Carausias has proclaimed himself Emperor. Once a river-pilot, he rose to command the Roman fleet and absconded with it to Britain and overthrew the Governor. Now he's a valuable ally of the much-weakened Roman Empire against encroaching barbarians and sea-wolves and plans to strengthen Britain to the point where it can withstand the impending fall of Rome.

Justin and Flavius, good-hearted and good-natured youths, chance on a treacherous meeting while hunting on the coast. Reporting what they witnised, however, leads to an unexpected outcome. What follows is a tale of loyalty and betrayal, a stirring adventure that builds to a fiery climax under the battered and tarnished Eagle of the lost Ninth Legion.

Absolutely marvelous stuff. Sutcliff was the mistress of historical adventures, concealing a sophisticated understanding of the ancient world and its history under a deceptively simple and straightforward style of storytelling. The story twists and turns and runs its own course, and it helps if the sodding copywriter hasn't given any of the various twists and turns away. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Not quite as much my favorite as Eagle of the Ninth --in the nature of things it is less triumphant, since it is set in later Roman Britain when local usurpers are pulling away from the central Roman Empire. The story is rather sympathetic to Carausius, the capable first usurper, but paints Allectus who killed Caurausius as the villain, and has the young heroes cooperate with the Caesar Constantius (father of Constantine the Great) in overthrowing Allectus on behalf of the Roman central government.. ( )
  antiquary | Jul 8, 2013 |
Not sure why I didn't like this as much, when I was younger. Maybe I'd just wanted more time with Marcus and Esca, and felt a little cheated by Flavius and Justin. Not so much, now: it was like meeting up with an old, old friend, to read this book again. It's a quick read, like the first book, and maybe the reread of this one was even more of a pleasure, because I was truly discovering something new in it this time.

I love the way Rosemary Sutcliff bases her books so strongly on real things -- on an attempt at reconstructing the real history behind something like the Eagle found in Silchester. I wish we knew what the real story is -- but maybe it isn't nearly so interesting as the story Sutcliff has told.

In any case, I have got to love Flavius and Justin, and Cullen, and to feel a little of their same loyalty for Carausius. I'm glad they go together at the end. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
When Justin, a Surgeon in the Eagles of Rome, is sent to Britain, he doesn't know what to expect. He soon finds a kinsman, Flavius, with whom he becomes fast friends. They uncover a possible plot against the Caesar Carausius, and attempting to warn him changes their lives forever.

This is the second of Rosemary Sutcliff's books that I've read, the second chronologically and third published in the Dolphin Ring series. Justin and Flavius are both related to a character from the previous book, and a key symbol from the first book returns as well. Sutcliff uses descriptive prose to carefully include historical details that add to the realistic feel of the book without ever packing in her research in a heavy-handed manner. The plot is impossible to describe; you get the feeling reading that she won't show you all her cards to the end, and then you'll know what it's all about. I do wish that I could have better understood the characters and their motivations, and I became annoyed with how often various occurrences or items in the story were referred to as "the thing." As in The Eagle of the Ninth, I felt that the dialog was a bit stilted. But when the book was in my hands, I still wanted to see where the story was going and kept reading to find out what would happen to Justin and Flavius. ( )
2 vote bell7 | Nov 29, 2010 |
I do so love oldish first editions, former library hardcovers published in the 50s and still sturdy, with lovely thick pages and a general sense that the words printed on the page are actually worthy of being there. I don't know what it is but there's something so wholesome about such books. My copy of Rosemary Sutcliff's The Silver Branch is one such, an honorable old edition dignified in its share of library stamps and heavy with a promising weight.

The Silver Branch is the second in the Dolphin Ring Cycle and picks up more than a century after the events of The Eagle of the Ninth. Rome still holds Britain, but the hold is tenuous as Rome's power has already begun to disintegrate. Justin, a young military surgeon, is posted to the Roman town Rutupiae to serve under Emperor Carausius. Soon Justin and his kinsman Flavius happen upon a plot by Carausius's treasurer, Allectus, to overthrow the emperor. But when he hears of it, Carausius only sends them away to an even more dismal assignment in the British backwaters. How can they warn an emperor who won't even believe them?

Sutcliff's characters are wonderful, as usual. Justin is very believable as a stuttering young man who has honest fears and carries the bitter knowledge of having disappointed his father on several levels. Flavius is much more the hero type, but Justin is the focus and though the story is told in the third person omniscient, it's Justin's thoughts we follow. The secondary characters are also skillfully drawn: Aunt Honoria with her no-nonsense courage, Flavius's old nurse Volumnia, Evicatos of the Spear, and the one I've always remembered from my childhood reading: fussy, fastidious, soft Paulinus who willingly lays down his life for his friends.

The silver branch of the title refers to a musical instrument played by Carausius's Hound, the court fool Cullen, and crystallizes the idea of beauty created from chaos. I love this description of its music:

"Then, very quietly, and clearly for his own pleasure, he began to play—if playing it could be called, for there was no tune, only single notes, falling now soft, now clear, as he flicked each silver apple with knuckle or nail; single notes that seemed to fall from a great height like shining drops distilled out of the emptiness, each perfect in itself" (29).

Profound and beautifully rendered, Rosemary Sutcliff's work is the standard for historical fiction. ( )
7 vote wisewoman | Sep 10, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rosemary Sutcliffprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keeping, CharlesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On a blustery autumn day a galley was nosing up the wide loop of a British river that widened into the harbour of Rutupiae.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A young Roman army medical officer, sent to Britain during the period of waning Roman rule, befriends a kinsman with whom he shares an adventure of intrigue, exile, and underground activity with the Lost Ninth Legion.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374466483, Paperback)

More than a century after The Eagle of the Ninth leaves off, two cousins join the Roman side in the fight against a tyrannical British emperor.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:35 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A young Roman army medical officer, sent to Britain during the period of waning Roman rule, befriends a kinsman with whom he shares an adventure of intrigue, exile, and underground activity with the Lost Ninth Legion.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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